BEIJING -- Former Prime Minister Khurelsukh Ukhnaa declared victory Wednesday night in Mongolia's presidential election with an apparent outright majority of votes in early tallies.
Khurelsukh heads the Mongolian People's Party, which holds a supermajority in Mongolia's parliament. He would replace outgoing President Battulga Khaltmaa, who is leaving office following changes to the constitution that limit presidents to a single six-year term.
Vote totals reported by local media showed Khurelsukh with over 810,000 votes, more than triple the tally for the second-place candidate, in an election that revolved mainly around economic stimulus in response to the coronavirus outbreak and the role of foreign investors in resource development.
"I thank all the people of Mongolia," Khurelsukh told a news conference. "I will do my utmost to leave behind a good society for children and youth."
Running against Khurelsukh were Erdene Sodnomzundui of the Democratic Party -- Battulga's party and the main rival of the People's Party -- and Enkhbat Dangaasuren of the National Labor Party, who was also endorsed the Mongolian Social Democratic Party and the Justice Party. Enkhbat is in second place based on the reported vote totals.
Khurelsukh likely won support thanks to his track record as prime minister, particularly his ability to effectively implement policy and a strong initial response to the coronavirus outbreak. He used the ruling party's infrastructure to secure votes, particularly in outlying areas.
Erdene was unable to get his party fully behind him. Enkhbat tested positive for the virus during the campaign and was forced to quarantine in a hospital, which appears to have hurt his chances.
The election was conducted cautiously to reduce the risk of spreading the virus after an outbreak this year. Poll workers wore face masks and gloves, while voters also wore masks and used hand sanitizer.